The 5 Most Terrifying Supreme Court Decisions

#2. Mining Companies Can Go "Scorched Earth" on the Environment, if They Get Permission


The Clean Water Act was passed by the government in the wake of the Love Canal incident (which is not the pornography it sounds like) and other similar cases of reckless pollution. Basically, Love Canal was used as a toxic waste depository by a company called Hooker Chemical, eventually holding about 21,000 tons of deadly material. Hooker then sold the property to the Niagara Falls School Board for one dollar, detailing the presence of the waste and denying any liability for anything that should happen as a result. The school board bought the land and built houses on it. Predictably, the toxic waste in Love Canal eventually leaked out into the community, causing a massive health scare.

The Clean Water Act is meant to prevent this. It says that waste cannot be dumped into lakes, rivers or bays (the ocean is fair game, because we can't drink it, so who gives a shit?). By its very definition, it protects fresh water from willful pollution, saving communities from future disasters such as the one that befell Love Canal (again, not a porno).

"Like making a porno."

But then in 2002, Congress amended the Clean Water Act to allow the dumping of "fill materials" -- as in dirt and gravel -- into fresh waterways to create a dam. Well, that makes sense. That's not the same thing as dumping poison. They said it would be up to the Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits to do that. So far, so good.

But under this law, when the Kensington gold mine in Alaska reopened, they were totally given a permit to dump waste debris from the mine (which included 4.5 million tons of incredibly toxic material like lead and mercury) into nearby Lower Slate Lake. This would be enough poison to kill everything in the lake.

"Don't worry, I got this."

Why were they allowed to do this? Well, when the reopening of the mine was first proposed back when the amendment to the Clean Water Act was made, the Bush administration labeled the toxic waste "fill material" and argued that the mine would in fact be building a dam in Lower Slate Lake, albeit an aggressively poisonous dam that no living thing on the planet had either requested or required. Considering that the Environmental Protection Agency hadn't allowed mining companies to dump hazardous materials in more than 30 years, and that the "fill material" from the Kensington mine would literally kill every fish in the water, environmentalists sued the Alaskan government.

However, the Supreme Court upheld the decision to label the mine debris as allowable fill material, and insisted that the Army Corps of Engineers had acted in a reasonable way by permitting a gold mine to take a radioactive shit on an entire ecosystem, because money makes you nod your head at inappropriate times (see above).

#1. The Government Can Sterilize You in the Name of Eugenics


The case of Buck v. Bell (1927) started when 17-year-old Carrie Buck was sent to the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded (the existence of which should foreshadow all that's to follow) on the grounds of promiscuity and feeble-mindedness, after being raped and impregnated by the nephew of her foster parents. The foster parents, John and Alice Dobbs, thought it was the right thing to do, because if anyone found out that Carrie was raped by their nephew, their family name would be forever tainted. Since we are currently sitting here nine decades later writing about what pieces of shit they were, the Dobbs' grand experiment failed douchetastically.

"What if we say it wasn't a legitimate rape?"
"No one's that stupid."

Anyway, while Carrie was institutionalized, it was ordered that she be sterilized for being "feeble-minded" under Indiana state law. The state determined that since both Carrie and her mom had been committed to the Colony of Crazies, it proved that the Buck line was "defective." Carrie appealed the decision. Dozens of "experts" testified in favor of Carrie's sterilization in front of the Supreme Court, noting her lack of intelligence, her daughter's funny looks and her mother's history of prostitution.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of compulsory sterilization in an 8-1 decision, making it totally legal to remove testicles and scrape wombs barren if it prevents the spread of undesirable genetic traits such as madness, stupidity and disease (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. literally said "Three generations of imbeciles are enough" when referring to the Bucks).

Carrie's daughter was taken away and placed in the care of the foster parents, and Carrie and her younger sister were both sterilized to prevent the spread of feeble-mindedness (her sister's sterilization was masked as an "appendicitis operation," for the sake of hijinks).

You know you're wrong when, even with the law on your side, you lie to look like less of an asshole.

Before you go thinking "This couldn't have gone on after the atrocities of the Holocaust were revealed," take a look at this: An estimated 65,000 people were sterilized in America after 1945, mainly African-Americans and Native Americans. Compulsory sterilization virtually stopped in the 1980s as public support eventually waned, presumably in the wake of new distractions such as ALF and Miami Vice.

"Guys, stop sterilizing all those minorities. You have to see this alien play the saxophone."

However, the ruling has never been overturned. Earlier this year, a Massachusetts judge ordered a pregnant schizophrenic woman to have an abortion and be sterilized to prevent the spread of her genes. That's right, a judge ordered not just to sterilize a mentally ill person, but to terminate her pregnancy. The poor woman appealed and the order was stopped, but the point is that in 2012, a ruling like this had to be appealed at all.

You can follow J.F. Sargent on Twitter and Tumblr.

Despite these, sometimes the Supreme Court can be fun. See: 5 Awesomely Sarcastic Supreme Court Decisions. Or learn about 9 Insane Cases that Prove the US Legal System Is Screwed.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 7 Simple Tasks That Would Have Been Magic Back in the Day.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see what happens when Soren and Dan gavel fight.

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